Everyone has had that dreaded ‘pins and needles’ sensation at least once in their life. Ever wondered what causes it? More importantly, is it a sign of some underlying disease?

The medical term for the condition is paresthesia. The sensation most commonly emerges in hands, arms, legs, or feet. It is also commonly known as a limb “falling asleep.”

Here are the reasons for paresthesia.

Poor circulation

“Limbs fall asleep partly due to poor circulation ,” Fred Pescatore, a family physician based in New York City, noted, Prevention.com reported.

Blood circulation ensures that the nerves get oxygen and nutrients through blood vessels, and by extension, so do the organs. So, when a limb is deprived of blood flow for an extended period of time, it results in that pins and needles feeling.


“A common cause can be pressure on a specific part of arms or legs, which can cause compression of nerves,” Dr. Pescatore said, as per the outlet.

This usually happens when the person stays in a position for a long time.

“When our nerves or blood vessels are compressed, like when we sit cross-legged, it can compromise the ability of the nerve to transmit impulses back to the central nervous system,” Pescatore added. “The brain interprets these abnormal signals as the pins and needles sensation we feel.”

Medical condition

According to Dr. Pescatore, frequent pins and needles may be a sign of an underlying condition such as nerve damage, diabetes, and alcohol abuse. Moreover, paresthesia may also be a symptom of stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions, per MedicalNewsToday.

How to stop or treat pins and needles?

“Changing positions can usually restore normal feeling, as the nerves start sending messages to the brain and spinal cord again,” Dr. Pescatore suggested.

Additionally, maintaining good posture and body positioning can help alleviate pressure on the nerves, according to MedicalNewsToday.

“Stand up. Shake your arms or legs to get the blood flowing. That may initially magnify the pins and needles sensation, but it gets better from there,” Pescatore added. “Move around. Stretch! If you are feeling the sensation in your legs or feet, change your shoes. Wiggle your toes and spread your fingers in and out. This can help bring back blood flow and ease the nerves. If pins and needles persist, try a warm compress over the area to promote circulation.”

Should you worry about pins and needles?

Occasional episodes of pins and needles are not a cause for concern. However, if the condition becomes frequent, it is advisable to get it checked as it “may be a sign of more serious conditions, such as nerve injury,” Pescatore said.